Shabazz Muhammad: High Risk, High Reward

Going into his freshman season this year, the nation was waiting for Muhammad to step on the court at UCLA. He was widely regarded as the number one player in the country. He dominated games in high school against the best players with explosive athleticism and a sweet left handed stroke. He is 6 foot 6 inches tall with a near 7 foot wingspan. This allows him to post up against smaller players and play multiple positions. The high expectations never quite merged with reality though. Muhammad was immediately off to a bad start when he was suspended for the first 3 games of the season for accepting lodging during collegiate visits. He stepped on the court in game 4 and although his numbers were solid, he was out of shape and lacking his usual energy. I caught my first game of his against Arizona in January and 3 games later on in the year, including the tournament game against Minnesota where he finished the first half 0 for 7 but came on strong in the second, finishing the game 6 of 18 from the floor, albeit without a three pointer on 6 attempts.


See, the thing about Muhammad is that he can easily be a superstar in the NBA in the Kobe Bryant mold. Unfortunately, he could also be the next Darius Miles. He is immature, reckless and selfish on the court, but there isn’t another player in this draft with the scoring ability that Muhommad has. Shabazz has a killer instinct that the NBA hasn’t seen in several years, but this also means he isn’t going to pass the ball very often. He averaged under an assist per game this past season. He is relentless on the offensive boards and there hasn’t been a player with his ability to stuff the scoring stat sheet simply on ability alone but still displays an endless motor. On the flip side, if he isn’t doing well offensively, his defense goes from average to bad with the most noticeable issues coming from not getting back in transition.

This is another player that fits a position of need. Muhommad can play either the SG or SF spot, but could plug in immediately at the 3 for the Cavs. Is he a good actual fit? At the beginning of the year and even after the Arizona game, I would have said yes. Now, I would say no. Irving and Waiters are way too good with the ball in their hands to have to worry about passing the ball to the black hole that is Shabazz and never seeing it again. Is he the player with the most superstar potential? Probably, but right now, the Cavs really can’t afford to miss on this pick and the risks are too great with Shabazz.